I recently attended an awards dinner at a hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York City for my nephew, Curry Ford. This was a gala affair with men in tuxedos and women dressed to the hilt.
Curry had worked at Lehman Brothers, and then joined Glenview Capital Management LLC, where he has helped grow the firm, becoming a Managing Director in the process. His boss, who had been chosen to present the award to Curry, stepped to the podium and began describing the kind of qualities that had made Curry successful at Glenview – his hard work, his dedication to the firm rather than to his own advancement, his ability to work respectfully and collaboratively with others. In fact, he had turned down their first offer to join Glenview. Why? His loyalty to Lehman Brothers.
But this award was not about Curry’s career. It was about what he had been doing in his “spare” time over the past twelve years – and the impact he was making first on one young man, and ultimately on many others.
You see, Curry had joined The Catholic Big Sisters/Big Brothers organization when he was in his early twenties. He was paired up with Jacques, an eight year old, who had started life as a crack baby. His adoptive mother was wise enough to reach out for help. Curry and Jacques formed a relationship that lasts to this day. Thanks in large part to Curry’s influence and Jacques’ desire to succeed, he went to a private school and is just finishing up his freshman year at Skidmore.
Curry – and Jacques – proceeded to the podium where Curry received his award. With Jacques by his side, Curry told a story of when they had already been “brothers” for two years. As usual, as soon as Curry arrived at Jacques’ home, they headed off down one of the streets of Harlem, hand in hand, with then ten-year old Jacques telling Curry all that had been going on recently in his life.
As they passed a shop, an elderly woman came out of her store, looked at them both, and then asked Curry, “Are you one of those Big Brothers?” Curry answered, “Yes.” She put her hand on her heart and said, “God bless you. You Big Brothers keep these boys out of the hands of the drug dealers.”
As Curry told the story, he paused to reflect that even when you are helping just one person, you are part of an effort that is affecting a whole community.
Can nobility be contagious, I wondered. As I talked to Jacques and his mother, I could see that spark of nobility in both of them. They both spoke with gratitude about Curry. Had Curry’s big heart helped to draw that forth in both of them? Or had their own nobility perhaps attracted Curry into their lives?
As I reflected on Curry’s and Jacques’ story, and took in the goodwill emanating throughout the evening, I thought of a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Great hearts send forth steadily the secret forces that incessantly draw great events.” Perhaps we should add – “and that draw others of great heart together”.